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Here & Now

Did you see where a bunch of British brainiacs designed a biofueled Formula 3 racecar? This sexy-looking, low-slung, lightning-fast racer isn’t just powered by vegetables—it’s actually made of vegetables. I can accept a driver’s seat from soybeans; possibly even a steering wheel made of carrots. (It’s true—look it up at www.worldfirstracing.co.uk.) But here’s where I draw the line: The 145-mph racer is fueled by chocolate. Besides making the car go vroom, it allegedly emits fumes that clean the air.

Now, I’m enormously experienced in matters of chocolate, and in my opinion this is an unconscionable waste. Furthermore, it can’t work here. Visualize, if you will, a cadre of socialites roaming the Waterside Shops parking garage with giant straws, slurping rich, dark stuff from the fuel tanks. Not a pretty picture.

Chocolate belongs in a beribboned jewel case with the Norman Love signature (Norman Love’s Chocolate Salon, Fort Myers). Or melted into a decadent chocolate hazelnut cake layered with dark chocolate mousse and topped with Crème Anglaise (The Capital Grille at Mercato, Naples). Besides, a certain je ne sais quoi that defines our community demands something more dignified in the fuel tank, don’t you think?

So I’ve decided to whip up my own batch of Gulfshore-appropriate biofuel. I’ll use all-natural ingredients: ylang ylang, Tahitian vanilla, pineapple, plum, white peach, rose, jasmine, orchid, carnation, musk amber and a few other things. Imagine the surge of upscale visitors when the entire Gulfshore is enveloped in the subtle fragrance of Clive Christian, the world’s most expensive perfume. Are you listening, Jack Wert, Suya Davenport and all you other Lee/Collier tourism wizards?

Speaking of cars, i was in another city last month and wanted to get my car shampooed and conditioned. I asked directions to the nearest car spa, and people laughed. This would not have happened here. Behind the glam Italianate façades of Waterfalls Auto Spa on U.S. 41 North and Pine Ridge Road in Naples, uniformed "therapists" are waiting to pamper your little darlin’ with a Day at the Spa, complete with steam, body wax, polish and lavish attention to all those subtle signs of overwork and aging. To protect her inner beauty, you may also want to consider a little tint (to the windows). Fine towels and special water? Of course. A Day at the Spa at Waterfalls starts around $199. Oh, and while you peruse the spa menu online, you may choose from girly, manly, jazzy and new-agey music options.

Among the best things about summer on the Gulfshore are the bargains and the freebies. It’s almost more frugal—and a lot more romantic—to check into a resort and get pampered than to stay home. Hotels in The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel’s Summer Sanctuary promotion are tossing out free gas money, beach towels, spa services, meals, kayak rentals and other goodies, not to mention bargain room rates starting under $100.

Meanwhile, the marco Island Marriott presents the Baby Butler Package. This lets families get away for a few days to bond with the new baby without hauling around 200 pounds of infant gear. Besides a Gulf-view room, baby gift, free meals for the toddlers and other goodies, it comes with a complimentary crib or Pack ’n’ Play play yard, some Little Swimmers, a tub of 64 baby wipes, a tube of Desitin cream and eight diapers.

I know what you’re thinking. Me too. Sixty-four wipes and eight diapers. No disrespect intended, Marriott, but this is Very Bad Math. According to my good friend Google, the average baby goes through 10 to 12 diapers a day. If you’re staying the weekend, you’re definitely in trouble. But don’t worry. In honor of my astute research, the nice lady in Reservations assures me that the Baby Butler will see that all Baby’s diaper needs are met.

By the way, Little Swimmers aren’t colorful plastic armband float aids. These are 21st century diapers by the makers of Huggies, specially invented for swimming pools. They’re totally leak-proof, and they don’t swell up to the size of Manhattan the instant they touch water. Better late than never, Kimberly-Clark. The Marriott’s Baby Butler program runs through December.

For those who would rather smear paint than Desitin, but can’t commit to a full session of art classes, The von Liebig Art Center offers an excellent summer deal. We can pick and choose among single class sessions with top local artists at just $35 each. There’s digital photography with Stefan Andreev, portraiture with Jose Castillo, drawing with Sam Platt and watercolor with Genie Kell. You can study oil and acrylic painting with Richard Kirk, or wet clay with Phil Calabro. With Jody Abssy, you can learn printmaking from wooden blocks. Check it out at www.naplesart.org.

How perfect is july along the Gulfshore, you ask? Besides the vast expanses of emerald waters, miles of shimmering crystalline beaches, no crowds, insanely low prices and cool promotions, spectacular flocks of nesting shorebirds and the rare ghost orchid blooming in the swamp? Life could only be more perfect if diamonds grew in laboratories. Oh, wait, they do. Perhaps you’ve met Nicholas Tentas, former Tiffany’s designer, jewel-maker to Madonna and collaborator with Paloma Picasso, Elsa Peretti and Angela Cummings. His jewelry store was among the first to open at The Village on Venetian Bay 20 years ago. Nick makes exquisite faux-diamond jewels with a sparkly, way-beyond-cubic zirconia synthetic called Lannyte, and he’s not revealing who’s wearing them. Why risk wearing Great Aunt Sofia’s 19-carat, $200,000 tennis bracelet when you can wear an exact replica for $5,500? So sensible.

If you’re reading this from somewhere Up North, we love you and miss you. If you’re lucky enough to be here, take an art class for practically nothing. Check into a local resort for some personal pampering and free stuff. Treat your taste buds to chocolate and your car to a day at the spa. Above all, savor the moment.

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